Former New Hope Principal Lynn Wright, fired in 2009 along with longtime Trojan baseball coach Stacy Hester for alledged improper purchase of a $15,000 lawn mower to cut grass at New Hope athletic facilities, has apparently one-uped school officials by filing qualifying papers to run for Superintendent of Education in Lowndes County. Wright filed to run as a Republican for the position. Current Superintendent Mike Halford has yet to qualify, indicating he may give up the position by not qualifying to seek re-election. Wright will join previous qualifiers Cliff Reynolds, Principal at West Lowndes running as a Democrat, and Sam Allison, New Hope Middle School Principal – running as a Republican. Qualifying will continue until March 1st.
Also qualifying this week to run for sheriff in Lowndes County was Columbus Police Department Lt. Selvain McQueen. McQueen will join previous qualifier Sherman Vaughan running as Democrats. Bo Harris has qualified to run for sheriff as a Republican. Justice Court Judge Mike Arledge intends to qualify before the filing deadline of March 1st. Arledge will have to resign his position as judge before he qualifies.
Lowndes County Youth Detention Center’s Anthony Nelson is said to be considering a run for sheriff as well, possibly as an independent candidate.
Mississippi Justice Court Judges
Association Opposes Ms. Legislature-imposed Competency Test
Mississippi justice court judges elected this year will be required to spend more time in a classroom, as well as pass a competency test, to sit on the bench.
The Mississippi Legislature put together a task force in 2007 to examine the justice court system, which has made several suggestions for changes. Many items included in the task force’s report were not acted upon by the Legislature. Lawmakers did, however, require more classroom training time for judges as well as the controversial competency test. Mississippi justice court judges are being singled-out for the test, considering no other elected official in the state requires as such.
One such item the task force recommended that was not acted upon by the Legislature was allowing justice court judges to run without party affiliation (Democrat, Republican, independent, etc.). Currently, justice court judges are the only elected judges in the state required to run party affiliated. Circuit Court Judges, Mississippi Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Municipal, Chancery etc. run without party affiliation.
New laws, which will go into affect on January 1st of 2012, require first-term justice court judges to take 80 hours of basic training (as opposed to the current required 32 hours) and pass a competency exam to be administered by the Mississippi Judicial College of the University of Mississippi Law Center. Starting in 2012, justice court judges will also be required to take 24 hours of annual continuing studies at the Mississippi Judicial College (as opposed to the current required 18). If the judges fail to complete the required training within eight months of beginning their term, the judge would have to forfeit his or her office.
The legal education requirement for justice court judges is currently a high school diploma or equivalent. The task force had suggested requirement of at least an associates degree from a two-year college to qualify to run for justice court judge (also strongly opposed by the association – it’s long been thought that the Legislature desires only lawyers running for justice court judges, which could remove the ‘people’s court’ feeling among most Mississippians) and also suggested allowing five years experience as a certified law enforcement officer, paralegal, court clerk, deputy clerk or court administrator to stand in-lieu of a degree ( a better alternative). However, the Legislature did not adopt these suggestions.
Currently, 22 of Mississippi’s justice court judges are licensed attorneys in the state. (I remember the late Judge Phillip Robertson being adamantly opposed to the attorney requirement. He had often said that if you want to destroy the justice court system in Mississippi, making being an attorney a requirement would certainly do so. RW)
Last week, I had written that Commercial Dispatch reporter Jason Browne had written that District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks was “accustom to running unopposed’ in elections. I received an email from Jason saying ‘un’ was not attached to ‘opposed’ in his statement – and he was correct! I was in error and my apologies go out to Jason. Actually, Jason writes some of the better stories for The Dispatch and is to be commended. ‘Upon further review’, to borrow a phrase from the NFL referee’s…Jason appears to be the cream of the crop among Dispatch reporters!
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0